Haz the Taxi Driver
I know you told me to call you when I got back to America. I tried explaining that that wasn’t possible. But you told me to call you again right when I was leaving the car. Well, I’m back in America and I’m telling you through tumblr. Chances are pretty slim that you won’t ever see this.
Did you enjoy the mango juice I gave you before I left? I thought about giving you my ful sandwiches, too, but as I ate those in the Chicago O’Hare luggage claim, I’m glad I didn’t. They made it across the Atlantic! How ‘ishda is that?
What have you been doing with the latest round of violence? I hope it hasn’t gotten in the way of your interest in history and watching documentaries. I also hope that you’re still making money transporting people around.
I applied for a grant to study Arabic in the summer. If I get it, I’ll give you a call. Here’s to you remembering me!
Young Algerian-French Lady
I just finished uploading videos of when I was travelling to Morocco. Please let your Moroccan friends (sisters?) know and that y’all should take a look! You can watch them here.
I forget the word that you used to describe yourself. I want to say it was savage or wild or something like that. It was an apt description. I also want to tell you that you have character, something that is lacking in people these days. You’re brash and unafraid.
So I dunno where you are now. Maybe back in Algeria? Maybe back in your tiny hometown in France that you told me not to visit because there’s nothing there. I hope y’alls trip to Jordan went well, that the ferry did not sink, and that y’all did not spend too much money because y’all are “budget travelers”. And I hope that the wound you got while you were in Libya has healed.
Oh, and I found Bill on Twitter. Follow him if you’ve got one! http://twitter.com/#!/bill_taggart
Boy in Alexandria
How have you been since we chatted during the night of Ramadan that the Qur’an was revealed to Muhammad? There sure were lots of people in the streets and I know I was asleep for most of the time while you and your dad were chatting with Matt (the white guy). Alexandria must be really nice right now. The weather. Ahhh.
You still remember the Chinese I taught you? You also remember that I’m still American? That must’ve been weird. How can somebody be American but still look Chinese? You’re not the first person to ask that, but keep asking questions like that and you’ll become smart, insha’allah.
Maybe you should read this later, as I’m going to try and explain my thoughts on identity that became apparent while I was in Egypt. When people asked me where I was from, I sometimes said Chinese, sometimes American. Sometimes, I said I was from America if I was doing something positive, as I feel that Americans get an unfair bad rep in the world. But what exactly am I?
I would say that I am a Chinese-American, but the Chinese part is the most important part of my American identity. And I strongly believe I can be hyphenated, as I am not American without Chinese. I guess that’s why some ladies decide to hyphenate their last name after marriage.
Sometimes though, I would lie and just say I was from China, tell them I was from Beijing, and just leave it at that. Why did I do that? I’m not too sure. Maybe it had something to do with a part of me that knows it needs to shore up my falling Chinese “credentials”.
Somebody also recently asked me “if China and the U.S. got in a war, which side would you choose?”
Mr. Jing at the Chinese Restaurant
Jing xianshen! Nihao.
That was some of the best greasy chinese food I’ve had, ever. I guess you can never really get rid of your roots, huh. Danchaofan (egg fried rice, arooz bil baed il maqlee), suan niurou (garlic beef, lahma bil tum), and zhajiang mian (Beijing sauce noodles, makaroona bil [mish arif il kalima li ‘sauce’]). Chinese food does something magical for Chinese people, no matter where they are. It like restores some sort of mana and energy or something. Lucky you work at a Chinese restaurant in Egypt.
I really enjoyed hearing your perspectives on life and your experiences looking for work outside of China. I will be honest, it was hard to understand your shenyang accent at times. Did I fool you? Probably not. Just to make sure though, you talked about how your friends in New York were having difficulty finding a job, an Egyptian immigration official let you off the hook, you looked for work in Israel, you were going to work at a rival Chinese restaurant in Dahab but the owner of that one screwed you over, your name is Mr. Jing right?, and there are a lot of forms to work in the US and that in 2005 they let in a lot of Chinese immigrant workers.
Also, I have a question. I couldn’t help but notice some animosity towards the other Chinese lady, the one who married the Egyptian owner of the restaurant and had a kid. Do you have such feelings? It was weird. I can definitely see lots of reasons a Chinese man would harbor such ill will towards a Chinese women far away in Egypt though.
I look forward to seeing your Skype invitation. I’m going to have a busy year though with my dissertation (luowen) and school,. Perhaps email would be a better way to communicate?
Polish Man Eating Breakfast
You’re a funny guy. Travelling the world, going through Berlin and Thailand and now Egypt. It’s also nice to meet somebody so pro-American as you. New York is great and democracy is fantastic. I guess you get different viewpoints growing up in the Soviet bloc, huh.
I’ve got a couple points. Cairo isn’t as bad as your impression was. Look, you only went to the pyramids, the museum, and the Citadel. You saw some trash and didn’t see any “nice” parts of town. I would argue that a city doesn’t have to have modern, “nice” areas to be a great city. I can sympathize if you’re bothered by dirtiness and lack of modern amenities. But you only had two days in the city and went to the tourist attractions.
Also, your girlfriends in Thailand? They looked like really nice girls, but do you think they really loved you? I dunno man. Hate to break it to you, bro, but maybe those girls had other motives in mind. I’m glad you had fun dancing every night until 3 AM. My friend was just in Thailand too, so that’s two for positive experiences in Thailand.
When your book comes out, I’d like to take a look. You didn’t really delve into it too much, but science behind the Bible is interesting. I didn’t tell you, but I am a Christian and I would like to discuss religion with you, if we meet again.
I hope you got lots of rest on this trip. In a way, your lifestyle appeals to me and I would like to keep travelling well into old age. Nice meeting you!
Business is Business Girl
How are you? I am coming to Dahab tonight. Will I see you? Probably not. If I do see you again, will I buy another bracelet? Probably not. One is enough, I think. Two is tacky.
Business is business. I hope you understand. Not 6, 7, 8, or 9 pounds. 10 pounds for a bracelet.
Keep using your business acumen though on other foreigners. They’re not ready and they won’t be able to handle your tactics.
Have you thought about diversifying since last time? Jewelry is a safe bet and I’m in the market for a new earring.
See ya soon (maybe),
Moses the Camel
You are some animal. You’re the leader of the other camels. They followed you. So take advantage of the opportunity and lead them. Don’t let some guy on a horse drag you along.
Also, we can do some exercises to help you with your tripping on rocks problem. Sometimes it helps when you look at the ground as you move. I can help you out with what’s in front of you. That way, you won’t trip and I won’t almost fall out of the saddle. And don’t worry, there’s nobody to make eye contact with.
Next time we meet, tell me your real name. The guy had me calling you Abu Tarf and Abu Shara’a and told me to Odrib ya shoshta which apparently means Hit your Zipper. Does that all even make sense? Sure doesn’t to me.
Is it painful to lie down? Your legs seem pretty knobbly and long and don’t look like they could support your torso. Looks pretty uncomfortable, especially the three-jerk motion to get up. Do you have trouble waking up in the morning? I sure do.
I don’t know if you know this, but it’s impolite to pee in public.
Muhammad Car and Ahmed Camel
I was in a taxi last night and I saw people selling jasmine flower necklaces. And then I remembered the one y’all gave me so that I wouldn’t forget you two. Well, good job, I haven’t forgotten y’all.
Muhammad, good luck driving your microbus, picking people up, and trying to scrap some money to eventually marry a nice girl. Make sure she’s nice though. Somebody just told me a metaphor. Women are like watermelon. You don’t know how good it is until you open her up (marry her), but by then, it may be too late.
Ahmed, thanks for the music recommendations. I will take a look at Tamer Hosni and Amr Diab when I get back to America. You seem like a cool guy and I hope your camel business around the pyramids keeps growing. Make sure you get lots of sleep so you can last the long, hot days. It’s unfortunate you didn’t get to meet the other foreigners in the bus, but hey, there are lots of us.
To both of you, stay friends. I actually wouldn’t mind being a cab driver when I am older. It’s one of my unrealistic dream jobs. The other being a small food stall. We don’t have microbuses in America, unfortunately. There are lots of things we don’t have that I would like to see. Stuff like mango juice and shesha cafes.
Maybe next time I’m in Egypt and some friends visit and want to go riding, I will give y’all a call. Insha’allah.
Kids Crossing the Street as a Game
I’m writing to you two and all the other ones out there. I salute, warn, and marvel. My friends and I talked about playing real life frogger when we were here. But we didn’t have the daring or carefreeness to actually do it. However, y’all do.
I salute you because I too get a rush and excitement whenever I cross the street. At a such young age, you already have the audacity to push that rush to its limits, dashing across the street in front of cars honking their horns. I think as you grow older, you will hear all about taking risks and its benefits.
But with risks, there are also drawbacks, right? So I warn you to consider other forms of entertainment, ya? I know there are books, drawing, and sports here. And again, as you grow up, you will hear about delaying things now so that you can have them later in life. Go through school, work hard to get a job, make some money, and then go skydiving for a real thrill. I, too, have never gone skydiving.
It makes me wonder (and marvel) though at what could get you to run in front of cars as entertainment. I know poverty is a big problem here, and I suppose it comes out in situations like this.
I take the metro every day. Please don’t ever hop down into the tracks and try to race the metro as it comes in behind you. Or put a crocodile in a pool and try to swim away from it.
Happy hunting for fun,
Man on Metro
Did you really think I was 41? I have never gotten that, but I will take that as a compliment. Maybe I look wise and learned. Or something like that. If I had to guess, I’d say you were about 60.
I must say I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation. And the two mints you gave me from the pack that you bought from a seller on the train. Your statement “Djibouti has a lot of money and cheap food. The UAE has a lot of money and expensive food. Djibouti is better) is very simple and deep insight. Some of the most direct and clear analysis I’ve heard in a while.
I wish the best of luck to you as you continue working. Africa, Yemen, Oman, UAE, and Saudi are quite impressive. Construction (or painting walls, I couldn’t tell) has a somewhat awe-inspiring effect on me. Tough work and long hours, for some reason, appeal to me.
And remember, it’s only about 6 hours to China by airplane. So maybe, in shah allah, you will get the chance to go there. Gimme a call if you do. I’ll try and help set you up.
P.S. I wrote this letter on the wrong tumblr.